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School of English and Modern Languages
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
+44 (0)1865 483912
Headington Campus, Tonge Block,T413b
Eric White works on American modernism in the transatlantic context, and his research focuses on avant-garde writing, literary networks, and technology. He pursued his undergraduate studies at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, before beginning his postgraduate work at the University of Cambridge, which was supported by a doctoral fellowship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Before starting at Oxford Brookes, he taught English and American Literature at the University of Cambridge, Anglia Ruskin University, and the University of Edinburgh. He has been awarded postdoctoral fellowships by Yale University, where he was the Gallup Fellow in American Literature at the Beinecke Library, and by the University of Edinburgh, where he was the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities' charter Newby Trust Fellow. He also held a Visiting Research Fellowship at the Rothermere American Institute at the University of Oxford in 2012. In 2014 Eric founded the Avant-Gardes and Speculative Technology (AGAST) Project, which re-imagines the inventions of experimental writers and artists using Augmented and Virtual Reality technology with academic, community and creative partners. The AGAST Project has been profiled at AHRC, TEDx, and other cultural and outreach events, and has been awarded grants by the CILIP/Arts Council England, the European Research Council and the Independent Social Research Foundation.
Eric's first monograph, Transatlantic Avant-Gardes: Little Magazines and Localist Modernism, was published by Edinburgh University Press's Edinburgh Studies in Transaltantic Literature series in 2013. The book investigates how modernist writers interrogated the relationship between physical places, the printed page, and cultural identity in ‘little magazines’, the artist-run journals that fostered literary modernism in the early twentieth century. He has also edited critical facsimile editions of William Carlos Williams’s early prose, and with Craig Saper, the influential vanguardist anthology Readies for Bob Brown's Machine. Eric's new book Reading Machines in the Modernist Transatlantic: Avant-Gardes, Technology and the Everyday (EUP 2020) argues that modernist avant-gardes used technology not only as a means of analysing culture, but as a way of feeding back into it with their inventions and collaborations as well as their creative work. The AGAST Project - an Impact Case Study for REF 2020 emerging from this research - seeks to harness the forgotten promise of modernism: that art and technology can combine to produce significant social change.
Eric is the leader of the Medicine, Science and Technology cluster in EML and founder of the Avant-Gardes and Speculative Technology (AGAST) Project, an interdisciplinary consortium that re-creates the inventions of twentieth-century writers and artists using Augmented and Virtual Reality.
The Avant-Gardes and Speculative Technology (AGAST) Project recovers the forgotten promise of modernism: that art and technology can combine to produce significant social change. Since launching in 2014, AGAST has dismantled barriers to social, technological, and cultural inclusion in the UK and internationally by: A) improving outreach, digital heritage, and STEAM policy and provision in libraries and museums; B) building capacity and enhancing outreach for marginalised young people in third-sector organisations; and C) generating new public works of art from research. Together these activities have empowered disenfranchised groups, especially young people, to combine creative and technical activity for positive social change.
Reading Machines in the Modernist Transatlantic provides a new account of aesthetic and technological innovation, from the Machine Age to the Information Age. Drawing on a wealth of archival discoveries, it argues that modernist vanguardists used technology not only as a means of analysing and critiquing culture, but as a way of feeding back into it. As well as uncovering a new invention by the poet Mina Loy, and revealing the untold story of Bob and Rose Brown’s infamous reading machines, the book places avant-gardes at the centre of innovation across a variety of fields. From Dazzle Camouflage to Reading Machines, and from rail networks to broadcast technology, White explores how avant-gardes combined technicity and aesthetics to provoke socio-political change and to explore new modes of being modern.
The integration of augmented reality (AR) technology into personal computing is happening fast, and augmented workplaces for professionals in areas such as Industry 4.0 or digital health can reasonably be expected to form liminal zones that push the boundary of what currently possible. The application potential in the creative industries, however, is vast and can target broad audiences, so with UNBODY, we set out to push boundaries of a different kind and depart from the graphic-centric worlds of AR to explore textual and aural dimensions of an extended reality, in which words haunt and re-create our physical selves. UNBODY is an AR installation for smart glasses that embeds poetry in the user’s surroundings. The augmented experience turns reality into a medium where holographic texts and film clips spill from dayglow billboards and totems. In this paper, we develop a blueprint for an AR escape room dedicated to the spoken and written word, with its open source code facilitating uptake by others into existing or new AR escape rooms. We outline the user-centered process of designing, building, and evaluating UNBODY. More specifically, we deployed a system usability scale (SUS) and a spatial interaction evaluation (SPINE) in order to validate its wider applicability. In this paper, we also describe the composition and concept of the experience, identifying several components (trigger posters, posters with video overlay, word dropper totem, floating object gallery, and a user trail visualization) as part of our first version before evaluation. UNBODY provides a sense of situational awareness and immersivity from inside an escape room. The recorded average mean for the SUS was 59.7, slightly under the recommended 68 average but still above ‘OK’ in the zone of low marginal acceptable. The findings for the SPINE were moderately positive, with the highest scores for output modalities and navigation support. This indicated that the proposed components and escape room concept work. Based on these results, we improved the experience, adding, among others, an interactive word composer component. We conclude that a poetry escape room is possible, outline our co-creation process, and deliver an open source technical framework as a blueprint for adding enhanced support for the spoken and written word to existing or coming AR escape room experiences. In an outlook, we discuss additional insight on timing, alignment, and the right level of personalization.
This chapter is about U.S. Modernism in Europe, and the individuals that criss-crossed the Atlantic from the United States to Europe from the dawn of the twentieth century to the Second World War. Rather than charting a one-way flow of Americans to Continental Europe, however, it explores how U.S. vanguardists engaged with a range of European contexts and represented them to a transatlantic audience, both on the Continent, and back home. And rather than reaffirming or supplanting any particular canons, it emphasises the co-construction and mutual dependence of particular modernist formations. To do so, it identifies a few crucial nodes of cultural activity that operated at the centre and on the margins of modernist discourse networks: the Black Atlantic of the Harlem Renaissance; transatlantic "little magazines"; and expatriate writers who were also publishers, editors and salonnières. But it also consider the technologies, expressions of popular culture, and indeterminacies of race, ethnicity, gender and class that emerged as particularly "American" tropes of industrial modernity in these exchanges. Transatlantic networks challenge us to ask precisely what we mean by "U.S. Modernism in Europe" – and engaging with any of them produces complicated, sometimes counter-intuitive, responses. For those discussed in this chapter, it meant embracing, slightly anxiously, the indeterminacies of the Machine Age and constructing a new mode of "being American" in Europe.
Selected Conference Papers, Plenaries, and Panel Chairing